Once upon a time, a radio station had a team of people fully focused and dedicated to a single radio signal. Think of the incredible radio stations you listened to in your youth: WABC, WKBW, WRKO, WLS, WPRO, WDRC, KHJ, KFRC, CKLW, etc. These were standalone radio stations with dedicated staffs that numbered ten or more times larger than today’s radio clusters, which are made up of 4 or more stations.
When I was on-the-air and in programming/operations for AM1420-WBEC, it was the only radio station I was concerned about. When the owner added an FM signal to our operation, he hired a dedicated air staff and programmer to oversee this new signal.
In my car, in my home, in my office, you could here WBEC playing. I remember the programmer of our new FM station grousing that his station was not being heard anywhere in the building but his own radio studio.
When I moved into sales at Whoopee Radio, our programming was simulcast on both our AM and FM signals. When ownership decided to split the AM and FM into separate formats, I was promoted to general manager of the AM station and went about hiring air personalities and a sales staff for our new Radio One – WUHN. Only our broadcast engineer and office staff would be shared by both operations.
On my side of the building all you heard playing was WUHN and on the other side it was WUPE.
KOEL AM/FM, KCRR & KKCV
When I got to Iowa as Market Manager of a four station cluster, the sound of any one of the radio stations playing was hit and miss in the common areas, but each station had its own dedicated staff, completely focused on their operation. Again, only office and engineering staff were shared.
Radio Clusters in 2022
People wonder why Christian Radio and Public Radio stations are often the most successful radio operations in markets across America. I don’t wonder. What I see are radio operations that hearken back to the way I started in radio, an entire staff, 100% focused on a single radio station.
In these radio stations, the programming can be heard in the hallways, bathrooms and coming out of every office.
In my Capstone Class at the university, I would take my students to see how different radio and TV stations operated in the area. The differences in equipment, staffing, and facilities were always enlightening. Everyone in these stations could be seen jumping from one station to another, many had programs they hosted on more than one signal.
What never ceased to amaze me however, was when you went into our local public radio station or our local Christian radio station, the energy was palpable. Everyone in these radio stations were dedicated to the mission of the station. They didn’t just broadcast their formats, they lived and breathed them.
Culture always changes in the hallways,
before it changes out the speakers.
When John Frost asked in his weekly blog, “if your radio station went off the air, would anyone care,” it got me to thinking about what makes for a successful operation. Be it a business, sports team, or even a radio station, if you don’t have that spirit of a shared mission with a defined goal that everyone’s working towards, you won’t ever be a success.
Radio broadcasting is an emotional art form. If you don’t feel that emotion in the hallways of your operation, you’ve entered a radio station that is dying.
Radio is not dead, but many radio stations are on life support.